Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

Other reports in this collection

15.4 Current and Future Trends in Coastal-Adaptation Technology Transfer

Chapter 1 identified three fundamentally different pathways of technology transfer. These pathways are based on the stakeholder as the primary driving force of the technology transfer: the government, the private sector or the community. Most of the literature describing and analysing climate-relevant technology transfer deals with mitigation technologies. In technology transfer for mitigation, the private sector usually plays a crucial part throughout the entire pathway from development to diffusion. Market opportunities, investment procedures and profitability criteria are key words to discuss the incentives and behaviour of both the mitigation-technology provider and recipient.

Most coastal impacts of climate change will impinge on collective goods and systems, such as food and water security, biodiversity and human health and safety. These impacts could affect commercial interests indirectly, but usually the strongest and most direct incentives to adapt are with the public sector. Coastal management is therefore usually a public-sector responsibility, and the planning and design of coastal adaptation to climate change needs to be tuned to existing policy criteria and development objectives (Klein et al., 1999). Only in cases where a particular stretch of coastline provides direct financial benefits is the private sector likely to invest in coastal management. Prime examples of this case are coastal tourist resorts, for which beach erosion represents a direct threat to their profitability, and ports and harbours, which will have to raise their infrastructure as sea level rises. In most industrialised countries, however, the private sector is typically not the stakeholder that drives technology transfer for coastal adaptation, because benefits are small or uncertain and action is expected from the government to protect private-sector interests. In developing countries, the private sector is generally a less significant economic force so again governments are expected to lead the way in climate-change adaptation strategies.

Coastal-adaptation technology transfer is therefore predominantly government-driven (or donor-driven). Case Studies 20 and 21 in Chapter 16 provide illustrations of this. Community-driven pathways may be found in places where a local need for adaptation is recognised but no government or private-sector interest is anticipated. Case Study 16 presents an example of collective action and joint management to combat erosion in Tuvalu. On Viti Levu (Fiji), a traditional village community has been actively involved in a mangrove rehabilitation project. This donor-funded project has been strongly driven by local concerns, taking into account the particular cultural and political settings (Nunn, 1999).

Many of the technologies listed in Section 15.3 have been applied to adapt to the effects of climate variability in coastal zones. The emphasis has traditionally been on protecting developed areas using hard structures. The need for technology transfer to plan, design and build these structures depends on their required scale and level of sophistication. At a small scale, local communities can use readily available materials to build protective structures (Mimura and Nunn, 1998). However, these communities often lack the information to know whether or not these structures are appropriate and whether or not their design standards are acceptable. For larger-scale, more sophisticated structures, technical advice is required, as well as a contracting company to build the structure. Developing countries may receive bilateral or multilateral funding to meet some or all costs involved.

Until recently, it was rarely questioned whether a country's entire coastline could be protected effectively if optimal management conditions prevail. It has become clear, however, that even with massive amounts of external funding, coastlines in the developing world (particularly of archipelagic countries) cannot be effectively protected by hard structures. In addition, increasing awareness of unwanted effects of hard structures on erosion and sedimentation patterns has led to growing recognition of the benefits of "soft" protection (e.g., beach nourishment, wetland restoration and creation) and of the adaptation strategies retreat and accommodate (Capobianco and Stive, 1997). An increasing number of private companies are now discovering market opportunities for implementing soft-protection options. Interest in the retreat and accommodate strategies is also growing, but markets for these are as yet less developed. In spite of this trend to consider adaptation options other than hard protection, many structures are still being built without a full evaluation of the alternatives.

A second trend in coastal adaptation is an increasing reliance on technologies to develop and manage information (Wright and Bartlett, 1999). This trend stems from the recognition that designing an appropriate technology to protect, retreat or accommodate requires a considerable amount of data on a range of coastal parameters, as well as a good understanding of the uncertainties involved in the impacts to be addressed (Capobianco, 1999). National, regional and global monitoring networks are being set up to help to assess adaptation needs and opportunities. In the Caribbean, for example, developing information has been presented as the first phase of a regional adaptation process and as such has been found eligible for funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) (see Case Study 20).

Thirdly, many efforts are now initiated to enhance awareness of the need for appropriate coastal adaptation, often as maladaptive practices are becoming apparent. For example, before a new hospital was built in Kiribati in 1992, a substantial site-selection document had been prepared, examining numerous aspects of three alternative sites but without consideration of coastal processes. A serious shoreline erosion problem advancing rapidly to within eight metres of the hospital was discovered by 1995 (Forbes and Hosoi, 1995). Efforts to enhance awareness include national and international workshops and conferences, training programmes, on-line courses and technical assistance and capacity building as part of bilateral or multilateral projects. In view of the many sectoral interests in coastal zones it will become increasingly important to involve decision-makers without direct responsibility for coastal issues and other stakeholders in this ongoing learning process (Humphrey and Burbridge, 1999; King, 1999).

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage